At home with sex-positive queer Christian feminist producer and poet Kate Spencer

Poet, performance artist, and MC Kate Spencer says her one-bedroom Ngaio rental has a 70s vibe that suits her because she’s a “nana”.
Ross Giblin/Stuff
Poet, performance artist, and MC Kate Spencer says her one-bedroom Ngaio rental has a 70s vibe that suits her because she’s a “nana”.

Kate Spencer is the Wellington-based producer, comedian and performance poet responsible for spicing up the capital with events such as Haiku Death Match, Femmes and Thems Comedy (showcasing female and non-binary comedians), and S*xy Sunday Shenanigans. Spencer, 39, lives in a one-bedroom 1970s flat in Ngaio, Wellington, a suburb in which she says she’d never be able to afford to buy without winning Lotto. Even then, she’d have to win big – “at least $8 million” – because she’d also want to buy a home for struggling friends, and an accessible central Wellington performance space.

KATE SPENCER: I’ve been in my rental for five years. When I first moved in, I said it’ll only be for six months or so.

I was on a break from my partner at the time. I thought we would work things out, but actually it turned out leaving him was one of the best decisions I ever made.

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I only pay $300 a week for it. It’s a one-bedroom but it’s spacious. It has its own laundry, separate lounge and kitchen. It’s home. I’ve never felt so settled in a place.

It’s got a real 70s vibe, but that’s OK because I’m a nana. If I’m not on stage, I’m basically curled up on the couch doing crosswords, or playing Scrabble on my phone.

I love anything with words. Being a poet, words are my love, my passion.

Spencer says she is “addicted to shoes”. “I can’t wear half of them because of my joint condition. They’re beautiful and works of art but they mostly sit on my shoe shelf.”
Ross Giblin/Stuff
Spencer says she is “addicted to shoes”. “I can’t wear half of them because of my joint condition. They’re beautiful and works of art but they mostly sit on my shoe shelf.”

My place is literally across the road from my church, Ngaio Union Church. It’s mixed Methodist-Presbyterian-owned but it’s its own thing.

It’s the thinking person’s church – open and accepting of anyone and everyone; queer, disabled, everything. We say: Come as you are.

It’s community. Those people have kept me alive. Some people give me money when they know I’m struggling, others bring me food.

Spencer used to take her italic typewriter to markets to write on-the-spot poetry for people, but she’s more focused on performance and producing these days.
Ross Giblin/Stuff
Spencer used to take her italic typewriter to markets to write on-the-spot poetry for people, but she’s more focused on performance and producing these days.

They just check in when I’m not doing well – because I do have depression and anxiety and multiple conditions that mean I live with chronic pain and fatigue. They’ve been incredible making sure I look after myself, and if I can’t, they look after me.

I’m minister’s steward, part of the pastoral care team.

Sometimes I just take my computer over there. I’m an extrovert and I love to be surrounded by noise. I like it when people are chin-wagging in the background. I just get on with my work.

Spencer has a great view over to her neighbour’s house. “They moved their bedroom, so it faces directly into my lounge and they put a net curtain up because I like to wander around naked. I took mine down so I could get the light. My mum bought me the Wonder Woman apron.”
Ross Giblin/Stuff
Spencer has a great view over to her neighbour’s house. “They moved their bedroom, so it faces directly into my lounge and they put a net curtain up because I like to wander around naked. I took mine down so I could get the light. My mum bought me the Wonder Woman apron.”

I’m counselling a few younger queers who are also Christian, who are struggling with their church not being accepting – their own churches putting in submissions against the Conversion Therapy Bill.

In my church, we wouldn’t ever want anyone to not be who they are. We take a very interpretive view of the Bible. We interpret it for the modern world, in the sense of injustice and inequality, and how we can rectify that.

Being queer is just who I am. There was a time when I was with men and I thought I’m not queer enough because I’m dating men, but that was internalised bulls...

Spencer says her bedroom makes her feel like she’s going to bed in a hotel room every night, after her friend and collaborator Hugo Grrrl helped her rearrange it. “I never used to make the bed, but now it’s the one thing I can’t not do. I make the bed and I feel good about myself.”
Ross Giblin/Stuff
Spencer says her bedroom makes her feel like she’s going to bed in a hotel room every night, after her friend and collaborator Hugo Grrrl helped her rearrange it. “I never used to make the bed, but now it’s the one thing I can’t not do. I make the bed and I feel good about myself.”

As a producer, I want to raise up queer voices as much as possible, to create a safe space away from those straight white heterosexual men.

I’m not being misandrous, man-hating. It’s just that the industry is still dominated by straight white men.

There’s no shortage of queer performers in this city, and it’s wonderful. People are always sliding into my DMs and saying I saw this show, and I’d really like to be in it.

Even the straight white men of comedy are saying, ‘hey, I’d like to be your diversity hire’.

Spencer bought the red top hat in “the grand Hugo Grrrl sale” – when the drag king with whom she worked moved from Wellington to Auckland.
Ross Giblin/Stuff
Spencer bought the red top hat in “the grand Hugo Grrrl sale” – when the drag king with whom she worked moved from Wellington to Auckland.

It has been hard since Covid, because we’re limited on how many tickets we can sell.

You can pay the performers, but you can’t pay yourself much at all as a producer.

I’ve produced and hosted and come away with $20.

I can’t afford to buy my own house unless I win Lotto. I would want at least $8 million though, so I can get a house for my friends that are struggling, and a venue in town that’s accessible.

Spencer published her book of poems, Squirt, to accompany a solo show of the same name in 2019. “And then a few months later, I wrote the poems and prayers book that my minister encouraged.”
Ross Giblin/Stuff
Spencer published her book of poems, Squirt, to accompany a solo show of the same name in 2019. “And then a few months later, I wrote the poems and prayers book that my minister encouraged.”

People with disabilities find The Fringe Bar difficult. It has a lift via a back alley; really furtive and grungy. If it works you’re lucky. The staff are incredible and try their best, but it wasn’t designed with accessibility in mind.

The Cavern Club is downstairs. San Fran has steep stairs. The Pow Wow room is all stairs.

Spencer says she loves the “she/her” badge. “I‘m cis-gendered and it’s really important for me to acknowledge my pronouns so other people can approach me with theirs and feel comfortable. It’s a signal to them that I’m a safe space for them to be who they are.”
Ross Giblin/Stuff
Spencer says she loves the “she/her” badge. “I‘m cis-gendered and it’s really important for me to acknowledge my pronouns so other people can approach me with theirs and feel comfortable. It’s a signal to them that I’m a safe space for them to be who they are.”

I’m from Somerset in South West England, but this is home now. This is where I am meant to be. I feel so strongly the pull to stay here.

It’s not only the fact that the Covid response has been pretty phenomenal compared to other places I’ve lived.

I do love England, but it’s gone to the dogs. I feel so blessed to be here.